Inductive Order, Inductive Reasoning, Inductive Writing

Inductive Order and Inductive Reasoning refer to the practice of deriving general principles, claims, and theories from specific instances and observations. When employing an inductive approach, rhetors move

  • from specific instances to a general conclusion
  • from from data to theory
  • from observations of particular instances to premises about what those events mean.

Inductive Writing is a style of prose fueled by induction. Writing described as inductive or indirect

  • provides the thesis or research question at the conclusion of the text
  • leaves it up to the reader to derive a conclusion.
  • shows rather than tells.
  • presents tentative hypotheses and limit the generalizability of knowledge clams
  • is reflective and thoughtful in tone
  • embrace ambiguity, nuance.

Inductive Order and Inductive Reasoning are sometimes referred to as

  • a bottom-up approach rather than top-down (deductive) or
  • hypothesis-generating rather than hypothesis testing (deductive).
Example: Joe is a writer. Joe struggles with procrastination. Therefore, all writers struggle with procrastination.Example: All writers struggle with procrastination. Joe is a writer. Therefore, Joe struggles with procrastination.

The human mind seeks order from chaos. As we engage with the world, we constantly derive abstractions from observations:

  • When we read texts, we engage in inductive analysis: we look at each passage, read line-by-line, and then we draw a conclusion about the validity, significance and quality of the text.
  • When we engage in discussions with colleagues, we watch who listens, who rephrases accurately ours and peers’ comments, and who inevitably undermines or misrepresents what we say. Thereafter, we make assumptions about the character of our colleagues.
  • When we receive feedback from to critics (bosses, clients, editors, teachers) we analyze the feedback into types of feedback (e.g., Really Important; Off Topic, But Interesting; Gotta Do This. This is B.S.!).
    In other words, we move from particular instances to the abstract: we categorize feedback, make judgments about what criteria those readers cared most about, and seek insights regarding priorities for revision.

We use inductive reasoning almost incessantly. Consider, for example, how we learn about genres in school and workplace on texts: after engaging in sustained reading within a discipline or profession, we notice repetitive patterns in the documents we read. For instance, when it comes to résumés, we notice from templates and samples on the internet that others avoid full sentences and the first person. That’s learning.

While inductive reasoning informs much of our thinking on a daily basis, it’s more common to use a deductive writing style rather than an inductive one. Our attention spans are really stretched by modern life: we receive texts, emails, and various app alerts that are tracking our health and fitness. Mass Media barrages us with a never-ending stream of national and international events. And then there’s work and school. Thus, it’s not surprising that most readers want to be told what a text is about and how it’s organized from the get go.

But it would be an overstatement to say that inductive writing has no place in school and workplace writing. The following rhetorical situations are particularly receptive to documents organized inductively:

  • Bad News. Using a deductive order in a bad-news situation would be cruel. Instead, before firing someone or reprimanding them or turning them down for something, we want to shafe with them that the situation was competitive, that there were loads of excellent submissions, that we considered sharing bad news, rhetors
  • Controversial Topics. When writing documents that address controversial issues or matters that threaten the beliefs of their readers, writers may find it strategic to place their arguments in their conclusions rather than their introductions. For instance, if you were writing to support universal health care in the U.S. and you approached a republican seeking support, you would probably have more luck if you shared your personal struggles with health care or in other ways humanized the issue rather than launching immediately in your thesis: that the U.S should adopt universal health care.
  • Qualitative Research, especially grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss).
    Some ethnographers, case study researchers, and journalistic interviewers enter projects seeking to develop a hypothesis that is grounded in the rhetorical situation as opposed to the theories that inform past scholarship in a discipline

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